Raising Awareness of the Asbestos Hazard in Albania 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



There is little public or professional awareness about the dangers of asbestos in Albania. Although there are some by-laws and decisions by the Council of Ministers that refer to asbestos or some asbestos products, there are essentially no laws regulating any aspects of asbestos use, sale, transport or disposal. While the large asbestos factories which operated in Albania during the Communist era are gone, a few small units and workshops continue to process asbestos. Considering the historic use of asbestos in the country, asbestos-cement pipes and building materials and asbestos insulation are an integral part of the national infrastructure.

An important educational program, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), held last month in the capital of Tirana marked the beginning of a new phase in the country's asbestos debate. A workshop entitled Training the trainers on basic occupational health services to eliminate asbestos-related diseases took place at the Albanian Institute of Public Health (IPH) on April 24-28, 2012. Albanian occupational physicians, medical doctors, nurses, technicians, health educators, epidemiologists and civil servants attended lectures by international experts (Dr. Rokho Kim from the WHO, Professor. Jorma Rantanen, formerly President of the International Commission on Occupational Health, and Dr. Gert van de Laam) and heard presentations from local experts (Associate Professor Dr. Romeo Hanxhari and Associate Professor Dr. Narin Panariti) and IPH specialists (Dr. Enver Roshi, Associate Professor Dr. Arben Luzati and Dr. Hajdar Luka).

The wide range of subjects on the agenda provided both background and country-specific information for delegates. Topics covered by the lectures included:

  • principles of basic occupational health services with a focus on the toxicity of asbestos;
  • asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, diagnosis, treatment;
  • WHO and ILO recommendations on the asbestos hazard and the importance of prevention;
  • a national example of good practice in confronting the asbestos challenge: the experience of Finland;
  • EU asbestos directives, action plans, initiatives, standards;
  • database and recommendations for a national programme to confront the asbestos challenge;
  • an Albanian asbestos profile and the sources of asbestos in Albania;
  • at-risk workers in Albania;
  • an Albanian mesothelioma case study, stories from patients and family members;
  • exposure, morbidity, diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related disease in Albania;
  • the development of a national asbestos strategy and action plan for Albania.

To add another dimension to the training schedule, a site visit was arranged by the IPH to a former asbestos factory in Vlora, a town 110 km south of Tirana. Although the manufacturing operations at the Eternit factory, which opened in 1966, ceased some years ago the site is surrounded by asbestos-cement debris and products. Operations are currently in progress to turn the defunct factory into a warehouse.

As a result of the intensive discussions which took place during the workshop the Tirana Statement was adopted highlighting the need to address the widespread hazard posed by asbestos in Albania which constitutes “a major threat to occupational and environmental health.”

Rounding off the informative and busy program offered to the delegates, on April 28, International Workers' Memorial Day, the Albanian Minister of Health, Dr. Petrit Vasili, launched the first book in Albanian to be published on the subject of asbestos entitled Asbestos: the silent cancerous killer. The asbestos emergency in Albania, written by Romeo Hanxhari, Petrit Vasili, Bilal Draçi, Arben Luzati, and Agim Sinojmeri.


Reflecting on the recent activities, Associate Professor Dr. Romeo Hanxhari from the Tirana-based Association for New Environmental Polices - ANEP, said:

“By our 8 years experience of lobbying and research for the asbestos topic in Albania, we are happy to see that this is the right moment when all the stakeholders in the country, especially the political ones, have started slowly but firmly to see clearly how very serious this problem is for us, and are collaborating with us on pushing toward some small but concrete actions as for example an Albanian Anti-asbestos Law, or a National Programme on Asbestos. This book and this workshop served just to raise this political and social awareness. The book, especially, is an interdisciplinary research addressed to all the professional stakeholders having to deal with Asbestos in Albania. We thank WHO for helping us to publish the book.”

May 28, 2012



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